Tajikistan is a land of deep history and warm welcomes. The landlocked country in Central Asia was once part of the Soviet Union, although it had more in common with its Middle Eastern neighbors than Moscow to the north. Many of Tajikistan’s residents speak a variant of Persian and share a common history with the residents of Afghanistan and Iran. In medieval Persian literature, “Tajik” was used to mean all of Central Asia. Today, it’s come to mean the residents of the mountainous country to the west of China and east of Uzbekistan. Traveling in Tajikistan takes you far off the beaten path and into a world of adventure complete with unique experiences.
Whether your adventure takes you to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, or deep into the mountains, you will have ample opportunities to experience the local culture. In the country of 7.5 million people, Tajiks are the largest ethnic group, followed by Uzbecks and Russians; regardless of their ethnic background, residents of the country are happy to be called Tajik. The country enjoys a high rate of literacy, despite its general poverty. Tajikistan is officially secular, although Sunni Islam is a recognized religion; nearly 98 percent of the country is Sunni Muslim, with a small pocket of Shia Muslims in the south. Sports are important to the Tajiks, as anyone traveling in Tajikistan will quickly discover. As with most of the world, football is a favorite sport, with cricket and mountain climbing also popular.
Even though Tajikistan is the smallest country in Central Asia when measured by area, few places are as high in elevation. More than half the country lies at least 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) above sea level—almost twice the elevation of Denver, the Mile High City. In the north, the Fergana Valley and two valleys in the south form the country’s lowlands. The mountain peaks are part of the Pamir Mountains, nicknamed the Roof of the World. Some of the highest mountains on earth, the Pamirs, stretch from Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Province into the Badakshan Province of Afghanistan. Some adventurous tour operators lead excursions into the mountains, making trekking vacations one of the most thrilling things to do in the region.
Music of Tajikistan
A blend of cultures, the music of Tajikistan provides a picture into the country’s past. Like the country itself, its music is similar to others of Central Asia, yet completely Tajik. As you go traveling in Tajikistan, you’ll likely encounter different kinds of music depending on what province you visit. Throughout the country, music is present in all of life events, including wedding, funerals, and holiday celebrations. When a child is born, it’s really a cause to celebrate, complete with traditional puppets and plenty of joyful tunes.
The capital city of Tajikistan is also its largest city. Dushanbe is the sister city of Boulder, Colorado, and each city has a teahouse built as a gift to the people and a symbol of the deep connection between the two. The Asian city lies at the junction of two rivers, the Kofarnihon and Varzob, and has been inhabited for millennia. The name, which means Monday in the Tajik language, is taken from the longtime Monday market that connected merchants and shoppers. Dushanbe enjoys a more mild climate than many of the mountainous communities, boasting warm, but not hot temperatures in the summer, and maintaining cool, but not freezing weather in the winter. The city is home to a number of attractions, museums, and universities, including an opera, zoo, and circus. There’s also a modern transportation network with an international airport, which is close to a number of hotels.